I've always loved and collected words that touch or inspire me -- even as a young, avid reader, I remember copying down lyrics and poems into a little journal so that I could re-read them and listen to the words ring around my head, turning them over like a geologist studying precious rocks. When I started making cards, I began with my favorite quotes because I was always looking for cards with the beautiful and wise words of my favorite authors (rather than the kitschy Hallmark cards full of trite cliches). This was one of the first ones I painted:
Walt Whitman has been one of my favorite poets for a long time. This quote, excerpted from "Song of Myself," has been in my files since the first time I read the poem, but it's one that keeps coming back to me even after all these years. The idea of self-improvement is part of the American ethos, and I grew up believing that in order to succeed, I needed to strive for betterment. Yes, I told myself, I needed to be more organized, more healthy, more outgoing, more motivated, and I think we all do this constantly, thinking that if we don't, we're lazy or lacking drive. But in the process of all that desire to be something more, we end up wanting to be someone else. All my efforts to "improve" were really just destroying my sense of self and my sense of self-worth. Whitman's poem is a celebration of the self in all its imperfect glory - "I celebrate myself, and sing myself," he begins the poem. But he also urges us to be brave in our beliefs and our actions:
YOU MUST HABIT YOURSELF TO THE DAZZLE OF THE LIGHT AND OF EVERY MOMENT OF YOUR LIFE. LONG HAVE YOU TIMIDLY WADED HOLDING A PLANK BY THE SHORE,
NOW I WILL YOU TO BE A BOLD SWIMMER,
TO JUMP OFF IN THE MIDST OF THE SEA, RISE AGAIN, NOD TO ME, SHOUT, AND LAUGHINGLY DASH WITH YOUR HAIR.
He wants us to be "bold swimmers," to "jump" bravely into the unknown...but in order to do that, we have to become comfortable with the "dazzle" of our lives. In the last few years, I've tried to focus my energy on self-acceptance rather than self-improvement, and it hasn't been easy. But I've found that when I'm happy with just being myself, I'm more likely to swim boldly through my life, to do the things that affirm and excite me and give me confidence. Like picking up painting again, and starting my own business. This whole journey into the stationery business has been a turn I never thought I'd make in my life, and it was a little scary at first. But letting go of that plank has brought me so much joy.
Originally, all my literary cards were painted in black and white for a very simple, clean look. Lately, though, I've been seeing black and white brush lettering everywhere on the internet, so I wanted to spruce my designs up a little bit with borders inspired by beautiful textiles. I'm really liking this new colorful look. It's not clean or perfect, but it's bold and it makes me smile.